Rebels. Without a clue.


Jonathan Walton puts it this way:

I confess that I find this somewhat tragic, as I too have Southern pride. Aside from the velleity that describes the religion of the Lost Cause and the white supremacy that defines Confederate paraphernalia, there is such a rich history and heritage for Southerners to celebrate. It was Southern soil that gave birth to the original American musical art forms by way of the Negro Spirituals, blues and jazz. Then there’s the great literary tradition that includes Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Tennessee Williams. The South provided the modern civil rights movement that moved this nation closer to its ideals of freedom, justice and democracy for all. And we should never overlook Southern sartorial splendor in the form of summer seersucker, and culinary combinations like chicken and waffles or fish and grits!

What he said. I have plenty of Southern pride, and my heritage does not depend on symbols that hurt other people.

Categories: Race/Gender, United States

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20 replies »

  1. I try to explain to fellow Southerners that this symbol was ruined forever during the Civil Rights movement. If a bunch of white Southerners had marched with MLK under that flag, then it might not have the cachet it has now. Unfortunately, the ones marching under that flag were the bigots, the KKK, the haters.

    One might as well try to resurrect the swastika as the benign religious symbol it once was.

  2. Not to be contrarian JS, but the swastika is still a benign religious symbol for hundreds of millions of Indians. It is somewhat unfortunate that because Hitler co-opted the symbolism of one of the oldest cultures in the world, the west feels obligated to bury that symbolism forever. Of course the harder thing would be to actually educate its populace about Hitler’s duplicity and to ensure respect for Indian cultural heritage as opposed to ignoring the deeper flaws in western thought that permitted the holocaust to occur.

    Con-men throughout history have, lacking their own, co-opted symbolism from other cultures be it Hindu, Christian or Pagan. If we force ourselves to “reject” and “denounce” all symbolism once it has been so abused then we risk sacrificing whatever culture we have left.

  3. tictacgo: You’re absolutely right about the swastika’s perversion, and you’re even more right about the difficulty – impossibility? – of rehabilitating it in the minds of the public. We’re a culture that resists education as hard as we can, and we dearly love easy symbolism.

    As you note, there are other symbols that have been similarly twisted – the pentagram, for instance, is commonly misunderstood to represent nearly the opposite of what it actually stands for….

  4. As always I’m reminded of Faukner – this from THE UNVANQUISHED:

    ‘I reckon there is a time when even preachers quit believing that God is going to change His plan and give victory where there is nothing left to hang victory on.”

    Would that more Southerners read their Faulkner as they should….

  5. tictacgo:

    Symbols have meaning within the context of the culture. The fact that parts of India still revere the swastika is irrelevant. But, to be fair to you, let me restate: “One might as well try to redefine the swastika in the West as the benign religious symbol it once was, and still is, apparently, in parts of India.”

    Doc Slammy:

    I don’t think any amount of educationwill resurrect a symbol that has been totally and completely associated with massive abuses. The pentagram can have its meaning (in the public eye) changed, because the association is not nearly as widespread or nearly as deep as with the swastika, or the the Confederate Battle Flag, for that matter.


    Of course you never would have equated the Confederate Battle Flag with the swastika.

    How can I put this so you’ll get it? Hmmm. Oh, I know.

    Elaine, you are NOT a Southerrner, which is a subset of “American.” You are NOT even an American, for God’s sakes. Doubtless, you get creepier feelings about the swastika than you do about the rising sun flag of Japan, but I would bet that those creepy feelings are reversed in China and the Philipines, and for good reason. And doubtless, most black Southerners get a creepier feeling about the Confederate flag than they do about the swastika. The Germans never made it to the US to bomb and kill. The Confederate flag, on the other hand, was waving over a lot of bombing and killing. raping, beating, lynching, and what have you.

    But, hey, maybe I’m drawing some unfair conclusions, here. For all I know, you have a PhD, doing your dissertation on Southern US culture, or history, or what have you?

    Would you please share your credentials with us?

  6. I think the bigger question is, why do the bad guys have the cooler looking flags? Honestly you can’t argue that the Nazi’s had some of the baddest looking symbols in recent history. Even the old flag of Japan was bad ass. Putting symbolism aside, they are a lot cooler then crap flags like Poland, Germany, France, Italy, and Ireland.

  7. Darrell – Maybe it comes down to bad guys know that they have to intimidate the hell out of people, so their propaganda people actually put thought into their battle standards. Good guys like to at least pretend that they’re not trying to intimidate the hell out of you, so they go more benign?

  8. Brian: I like your thinking on the issue of flag coolness. Hope you’re right. 🙂

    At the risk of raising a fire storm, anybody thought about what Native Americans might think about the stars and stripes? That standard hasn’t exactly presided over happy days for their peoples…..

  9. I like the US and UK flag. I guess it all depends on what side you are on, and where you were brought up. Colors mean different things in different cultures. I actually wish we still had the “don’t tread on me” flag.

  10. JS: I suspect you would rather I did not post because I am not a Professor . Sorry but I cannot oblige you on that one….

    My creditionals will be in History..and that starts this year.

    As for your, ahem, argument it is a non starter. You may as well equate every nation’s flag with the swastika.

    With regard to the link I posted it was interesting to read a less, shall we say, hot headed discourse on the subject of Southern heritage.

    …finally if and WHEN I end up living in the South…my neighbour might be flying that flag – would I think of him as some jackbooted nazi type. Or would I let it go.

    I kind of like to prepare myself for what might come my way.

  11. Jim – dammit, another idea popped like an overfilled balloon. I’m reasonably confident that the US flag carries a number of ambivalent messages for many Native Americans, but I long ago learned not to try and speak for them – I got handed my head by several individuals who had been sold a bill of goods so many times that they’d lost their ability to trust anyone who wasn’t also Native.

    It’s interesting to note, though, that Native Americans have the highest percentage of their people serving or having served in the U.S. military of any Census Bureau-defined ethnicity.

  12. Elaine:

    You’re not going to get off that easily. You constantly set yourself up as an expert on the American South and, to the best of my knowledge, you have no expertise, whatsoever. Please, enlighten us with your deep experience with the South. Or your research. I mean, how can those of us who actually grew up there, have studied the history and culture of the place with great care, either live or constantly visit there, and talk with native Sotherners regularly hold a candle to you?

    I think you’d do just fine living in the South, personally. You’d find a nice, white neighborhood with no wogs in it where you can, once again, assume the white man’s burden.

  13. Jim and Brian:

    For that matter, we can throw in the way the Irish or Indians view the Union Jack.

    I think the real issue here is of reviving a dead flag from a dead war and dead cause and using it as a symbol of the white supremacy. Because that’s what the post-Civil War Southern whites seemed determined to make it.

  14. JS: For someone who is articulate and intelligent you really do a poor job of expressing yourself, at times.

    I do not EVER put myself forward as anything other than just me. I do NOT ask your permission (nor do I need to), to have a reaction (a double blink as stated), have an opinion on a subject (or rather in this case a non opinion), to ask a question or to be the holder of an enquiring mind.

    You constantly respresent yourself as someone who enjoys baiting anyone outside your narrow vision of who can or cannot hold an opinion on the South. I am hardly about to list the reading material of my past, the conversations I have had or, indeed, post a million links to continue a pointless exchange of words with you.

    To use terminology such as “wog” is beneath you. It is a word not in my personal dictionary.

    And a log cabin will do just fine, thanks.

  15. Hmmm … as Hillary would say, this is just starting to get fun !!

    Mr O’ Brian you said: ” … The fact that parts of India still revere the swastika is irrelevant. … ” Hmmm. Perhaps you might like to take a minute to rethink the use of the word “irrelevant”.

    Then you go on to say: “But, to be fair to you, let me restate: “One might as well try to redefine the swastika in the West as the benign religious symbol it once was, and still is, apparently, in parts of India.” ” Word in question here being “apparently”.

    You have already set in stone your beliefs what about what is or is not “relevant”, what is or is not the right “context” and what is or is not “benign”. Nature decrees that there are no inertial observers. A state of perfect rest or motion cannot be achieved. You it seems have achieved it. I congratulate you and hope the universe doesn’t cease to exist because of any contradictions you might have stumbled upon.